Once again, as with reflections about Cambodia after one year living here, my fellow RPCV, technical trainer, and friend Katie has perhaps more accurately summed up why I am consistently returning to this small space of my world wide web with varied attempts to dig deeper and produce something worthy of truly capturing Cambodia.
What I really want you to know is that my community, my family, are endlessly patient, unfailingly open to laughter and new experiences and people, and quick to help anyone who shows them the small courtesy of getting to know them. What I really want you to know is that there is also so much more than the surface level smiles that the incessant tourists comment on when traveling through Cambodia. That the smiles are indicative of Cambodians' openness and friendliness. But also that distrust runs deep through my community and the communities of Cambodia and it is a long road, with varied potholes and boulders that prevent many from gaining a true understanding of this country, these people, my second home.
What I really want you to know that is just as we live life in America and throw out the cheap cliches - 'it's not about the end, it's about the journey' and all of those other ones that speak to finding happiness in the small moments of life, with those you love - this too is just how we live life in Cambodia. It's no 'simpler' despite the lack of infrastructure or underdeveloped educational systems. Life, as always, moves along, complex, full of double meanings and grey areas and people with good intentions and humans who err. Emotions run high, until they don't. People go to work to make a living and there are the lucky ones who truly love what they do. Families are created and children are raised, and expectations are set upon the shoulders of children and they meet them, or they don't. People live and die. People mourn. People celebrate new beginnings and happy endings. People live.
After reconciling that I could probably never actually give you the 'summary' I long to, I am left with the reductive and self-absorbed navel gazing that are my 'reflection' posts.
I am inspired by my other dear friend and fellow RPCV Christine's post. She landed in America, alongside Topher, two months ago. Her line about trying to find balance between who she was before she lived in Cambodia and who she had to become while here, and who she is now upon return struck a chord with me. How often in life do we have the true, marked 'end' of a portion of our life, to be indulgent enough to sit back and consider how we've learned and grown? I got halfway there last month, but there's more.
I will indulge, if only in an effort to write down now the changes I like, that I don't want to let slip by too quickly upon re-integration into America.
Who I am, what I know how to do, what I want to become is not a stagnant thing. I am constantly learning, changing and growing, as is everyone around me. This is a good thing.
Be inquisitive by watching, learning, listening. Remember the value and art of observing to understand and the art of silence. I don't always need to have a response, an answer, or a comment. It's often better to listen and let my listening be my contribution
Relax and breathe and trust.
Professionally, strive to be better- still action and solutions oriented, but with the balance of true reflection and opening to a wide variety of ideas and solutions. Personally, strive to be a better friend, wife, family member. Slower to anger, quicker to smile or laugh. Remember what I know about myself now: what I need when I'm sad, or angry, and how to work to make myself smile again; how to be more supportive of my husband and loved ones. Continue to practice (and practice and practice) the art of steering the conversation away from myself. I still suffer from selfish tendencies daily, but I am more aware of it and I am actively seeking to change it.
I don't have to know everything, or be the best at something. I can simply strive to do well, be a constant learner and do something that I passionately love. I think happiness and success will follow.